ALTON — Alexis Silkwood helped put Marquette Catholic High softball on the map and the Explorers are grateful for her staunch contribution to the program.
That’s why the Explorers honored her in the best way possible Saturday night — they retired her No. 8.
Silkwood, a sophomore pitcher at Mississippi State in Starkville, was saluted during halftime of the Marquette-Jersey boys’ basketball game. She is only the second Explorer to have a number retired. The other is former baseball coach Greg DeCourcey, who directed Marquette to IHSA small-school baseball championships in 1980 and 1984, plus a runner-up finish in 1988. DeCourcey wore No. 13.
“I’m so excited and I’m tickled pink about it,” Silkwood said of the awards ceremony. “It’s awesome.”
Silkwood, a 5-foot-4 lefty, was nothing short of awesome during her celebrated career at Marquette. She emerged as the winningest pitcher in IHSA annals with 124 victories.
Of those wins, 100 were shutouts, also a state mark. The East Alton resident also pitched 54 no-hitters and registered 1,907 strikeouts, two more IHSA records. In addition, she logged 15 perfect games and posted a cumulative ERA of 0.34. Silkwood guided Marquette to second-, third- and fourth-place finishes in the state finals. They took second in 2013, her senior season. Overall, the Explorers were 127-22 during those four years.
Marquette coach Dan Wiedman pointed to Silkwood’s vast influence.
“She took the program to a whole other level,” he said. “What made her special — besides her talent — was her passion and enthusiasm for the game of softball.”
Silkwood said, “Softball has given me a good life and it would be too much to dream of ever leaving it.” That’s why once she graduates from Mississippi State, she plans to pursue a teaching vocation.
She added, “I’d like to be a coach and teacher at a high school.”
For the moment, Silkwood has more to accomplish in college softball. The Bulldogs, considered one of the best teams in the Southeastern Conference, plan to lean more on her this season.
Last spring, she registered a 14-8 record, with a 2.19 ERA, and piled up 167 strikeouts in 153.1 innings. Silkwood fashioned nine complete games and had four shutouts in enabling the Bulldogs to finish 39-21. The lefty swinger also can hit in a pinch.
“I love to play softball and be on the field all of the time,” Silkwood said.
Mississippi State’s ambitious schedule this season includes a pair of home dates with nonconference opponents Illinois and Saint Louis University. The Bulldogs also visit SEC opponent Missouri on April 10-12 in Columbia. The conference tourney is set for early May at LSU in Baton Rouge, La.
“When you play the best of the best like we do, you can’t have a day off,” Silkwood said of the Bulldogs’ foes. “The biggest thing that will help me this season is the experience of playing in the SEC last season.
“I’ve changed my windup a little bit and I’ve added a few different pitches.”
Nothing has changed for Silkwood about her relationship with Marquette, where she graduated in 2013. Her mom, Staci, was an assistant softball coach for the Explorers. Her dad, Joe, served as the head baseball coach.
“I’ve gone back and visited the teachers several times,” she said. “You can’t just graduate and leave Marquette. You can’t walk away that easy.”
And the Explorers made it easier for her to come back again by honoring No. 8.
“It’s such an honor and I’m very blessed,” Silkwood said. “I wouldn’t be here if not for all of the coaches and people who helped me along the way.”
What was her most unforgettable softball moment in high school?
“It was when we beat Sherrard in the super-sectional my freshman season,” Silkwood said. “I came in to pitch in relief and we were losing, but we tied the game in the seventh inning. Mia Stack got a big hit and made a good catch to keep us going. Then I hit a home run in the ninth to win the game and send us to state.
“That was my all-time favorite memory. But I have so many of those good memories.”
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